Whilst different types of germs and foodstuffs are associated with different types of illnesses, by following some simple rules you can help yourself and your family avoid food poisoning as follows:
- Always store raw meat and poultry in a covered container at the bottom of the fridge so that it cannot drip onto other foods.
- Ensure that your fridge is clean and operating between 0 and 5 degrees centigrade
- Always defrost meat, fish and poultry thoroughly before cooking.
- Cook food thoroughly and if reheating, ensure it is piping hot all the way through before eating.
- If hot food is not to be eaten immediately, cool it quickly (within 90 minutes) and place it in your refrigerator.
- Ensure that work surfaces, cloths, utensils and chopping boards are cleaned thoroughly (between use) especially after being used for raw meat, poultry or fish.
- Always wash fruit and salad before eating it.
- Avoid making dishes with raw eggs eg mayonnaise, mousse, which do not get a thorough cooking
- Always wash your hands with soap and hot/warm water before preparing food and after handling raw foods eg meat, poultry, eggs etc, after going to the toilet, after playing with pets, after changing nappies, caring for people suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting, handling laundry, etc.
- Keep any cuts/wounds covered with a waterproof dressing when preparing food.
- Keep dogs, cats, etc. out of the kitchen when preparing food and always wash their bowls separately to dishes etc.
- Never drink untreated water from outdoor sources eg lakes or streams/burns etc
Some illnesses are not necessarily caused by bacteria growing on food. Parasites such as Giardia or Cryptosporidium, which live in the intestines of humans and animals, can cause infection through contact with farm or other animals or their faecal material, by drinking untreated / contaminated water, or eating contaminated food.
Furthermore viruses are a common cause of illness/infection which often present the same symptoms i.e. vomiting and/or diarrhoea, as food poisoning. Spread of this type of infection can be quick and easy and is often from person to person, but can also occur via aerosols or environmental contamination. The symptoms of a viral illness are often characterised by their swift onset and self-limiting nature , generally lasting no more than 24 to 72 hours.